New Adventures of Superboy #9 (September, 1980)
“How to Stamp Out a Superboy”
“The Day of the Lost Clothing!”
Writers – Cary Bates & E. Nelson Bridwell
Pencillers – Kurt Schaffenberger & Rich Buckler
Inkers – Dave Hunt & Romeo Tanghal
Colorists – Gene D’Angelo & Jerry Serpe
Letterer – Ben Oda
Editor – Julius Schwartz
Cover Price: $0.50
These issues of the New Adventures of Superboy always seem to draw me in with some wacky cover copy. If it ain’t The Misadventures of Superbaby… it’s the chance to peek into Superboy’s Secret Diary! Now tell me, who could pass up an opportunity like that? Not me, that’s for sure! I mean, maybe we’ll find out that he has a super secret crush on Lana Lang… as if there’s any other girls in this book, right? Well, ones who get names anyway… Anyhoo, let’s get down to business in Smallville, circa a long time ago.
It’s Monday morning at Smallville High… and Clark Kent is dead! You really wouldn’t know it to look at his former (non-Lana or Pete) classmates or even his teacher though. It’s just another day for them. We check in with Lana, who at this point doesn’t know that Clark is secretly Superboy… and Pete, who does know… but Clark doesn’t know he knows… ya know? But we know that he knows and that’s all that matters, see? A-hem. Anyhoo, Pete is recounting the “death” of his best pal… he and Clark were canoeing up Smallville River when a mysterious geyser erupts which capsizes the boat. Superboy is quickly on the scene to rescue Pete, but claims that it was too late to do anything for poor Master Kent. Further, Superboy leaves it to Pete to tell everyone what’s happened to Clark. Remember though… Pete knows Superboy and Clark are one in the same.
We shift to a territory by (but not on, clearly) the Rocky Mountains where Superboy is lending a helping hand to some miners by hurling large boulders into the ground… while they drink their coffee. Must be government work! Anyhoo, the workers notice that Superboy does not appear to be his normal jovial self (which tells me he does a lot of their work for them).
Back in Smallville, Lana and Pete pay a visit to the Kents. Ya see, Lana has Clark’s geology notebook… and she figures Ma and Pa might want it… because, why not right? Pa graciously accepts the book, and the kids leave while their pal’s parents sob. Pete thinks to himself how they must be putting on an act here, because he knows that they know that… ya know…
Back with the Teen of Steel, we watch as he literally sews a hot air balloon back together somewhere over the Atlantic… with a giant needle and spool of thread. Love silly stuff like this! The ballooners comment that the Smallville Sensation looks pretty down in the dumps.
Back in Smallville, Pete slaps himself in the head because he forgot his term paper inside Clark’s notebook… d’oh! So now he needs to revisit the Kents and just make an overall nuisance of himself. Before he knocks, he hears Ma and Pa lament the loss of their son. Pete begins to wonder what could possibly be going on if the Kents no longer know their son’s secret!
We soon learn that young Pete Ross isn’t the only eavesdropper zeroed in on the Kent home… Superboy himself is watching over his adoptive parents as well! He recalls that the Kents have somehow been robbed of their “Superboy memories” and he decided that until he knows how or why that occurred he’d probably steer clear. So, like any rational fella… he fakes his own death, and puts his parents through the worst pain one could ever imagine. Good lookin’ out, Clark! Here is where we also learn that Superboy has some eavesdroppers of his own… you may know them as the three folks that Superman would eventually *spoilers* kill during the John Byrne run.
We get to listen in on the Phantom Zone Criminals… General Zod, Jax-Ur and Faora Hu-ul… and we discover that they can “communicate telepathically” from the zone to the Earthly plane… and really, they’re just screwing with young Kal-El to be jerks. There doesn’t appear to be anything deeper going on here… their revenge is just making Kal sad… and hoping that he eventually goes off planet. Well, I got some good news and bad news Zod-Gang… you’ll eventually get your wish, but you won’t like how we get there!
The baddies continue to look on and see that the stress is starting to get to the Boy of Steel. He’s slipping a bit… being less thorough in his super-duties, which almost winds up causing a small village to get decimated by a flood. Zod and company yuk it up, while Superboy reflects on his exhaustion… and so, he heads to his new Himalayan Headquarters (just go with it).
He wallows a bit before busting through the mountain because he is “… bored stiff!” The Phantom Zone Criminals are still watching, and are tickled transparent at Superboy’s erratic behavior… and their part in it.
Back in Smallville, Pete Ross wanders through the woods in search of Superboy’s secret trap door back to the Kent house… and whattaya know, he finds it… pretty easily. You probably don’t want to leave a trap-door shaped lump in the middle of the woods where your trap-door is being hidden.
As young Pete works his way through the tunnel… for what reason, I haven’t the foggiest… Ma and Pa Kent enter their son’s bedroom. They consider the ramifications of what they’re about to do… and speak in whispers. What follows almost defies explanation… well, rational explanation anyway… Pa sets his pipe down in a box of tissues. Yeah, Jonathan Kent is a budding arsonist…
Pete emerges from the trap-door and ventures up to Clark’s room… we learn he’s still a
pervert eavesdropper, and overheard the sinister “burning down the house” plan. And so, like any mild-mannered teen… he helps stoke the flames, and gets that bugger goin’ real good.
It isn’t long before the entire Kent house is up in flames. Ma and Pa stand outside watching… which will probably not help their pending insurance claim… when Superboy finally arrives on the scene. He extinguishes the flames with his super-breath… and everything is cool… except, ya know… the house burned down.
Superboy grabs his parents and flies them off to safety. Meanwhile Pete is nothing more than a pile of ashes… no, no he’s not, we’ll get back to him soon… Kal watches as his folks stir back into consciousness, and as soon as he knows they are okay, he takes flight… destination: off-planet. Though, a moment later, he smacks himself in the head (two head slaps in one issue, nice!)… and, with a goofy grin returns to his parents’ side. The Zonies are positively perplexed by this puzzling turn of events!
Apparently, the Kents were wearing a “secret signal” in their pockets in the form of “compressed packets of Clark Kent clothes”… okey doke… this tells Superboy that they have gotten their memories back! Yay… too bad you’re now homeless…
The folks share their tale with their son. While Martha was doing laundry she got zapped with a telepathic blast. This allowed her to eavesdrop on the Phantom Zone Criminals, and understand their evil plans. She brought Jon in on the caper when she thought the coast was clear. Turns out they were able to use one of Clark’s “space trophies” to gain all their wonderful knowledge back. Wow.
We wrap up this whacked out tale with Clark returning… from the dead, mind you… and just going back to school. On the way he stops by his pal Pete’s house, and finally tells him that he is, in fact Superboy. Hey Clark, maybe you should ask him if you can move in for a bit… on a count that your Pa burned your house down! All’s well that ends well…
Our next story starts with Flash Thompson knocking the lunch tray out of “puny” Peter Parker’s hands… wait, no that’s not it at all… a-hem. A bully called “Bash” knocks the tray out of “puny” Clark Kent’s hands… there we go… this causes Clark’s sweater to get a nasty milk stain on it. I didn’t know milk stained… but, believe it or not… it’s vital to the story, so we’ll just go with it.
Later that day, there is a hold up at Mr. Trotter’s Drug Store. Clark performs his normal wardrobe change, and leaves his CK clothes behind the bushes.
Bash witnesses Superboy flying away and heads to the bushes where he thinks he saw him take off from. As Superboy is boppin’ baddies, Bash sees Clark’s (yellow, ew) milk-stained sweater laying in the pile of Superboy-civvies. Uh oh. He grabs the evidence and runs off to spread the word. Luckily, he just happens to forget Clark’s specs.
Superboy trails Bash, and is able to use his heat vision to pump the bully full of radiation… no, that’s not it… he uses his heat vision to “dry clean” the soiled sweater. He then goes home, and grabs an identical sweater from his collection of… identical sweaters, and dumps a glass of milk on it, much to Ma’s bemusement.
Back at school, Bash is pleading his case that Clark Kent is Superboy… when Clark Kent arrives, with his stained sweater. Bash is bamboozled, and throws a fit (and the sweater). We wrap up learning that this is why Superboy’s cape has a hidden pouch in it where Clark can stash his civvies while he’s fighting the never-ending battle.
What a weird book. Really now… we’ve got Superboy faking his own death… Clark’s classmates and teacher not really noticing or caring that he’s dead… the Kents burning down their house… after receiving temporary telepathic powers via a Kryptonian artifact that was hidden in their laundry room… What in the bluest of hells is going on here?!? Then… and then, we get a bit where
Flash Thompson the school bully deduces that Clark Kent must be Superboy because he found his soiled shirt behind the bushes. What a world!
I mean, I gotta say that I enjoyed it thoroughly. It was just too whacked out for me not to. I’m sitting there and I see Pa Kent drop his lit pipe into a box of tissues… it’s like, there’s no way, right? He’s not really going to burn down their house, is he? The answer is, yes… he was really going to burn down their house. Just so silly… almost anachronistically so. This does not feel like a book from the 1980’s.
General Zod is still a character who makes me yawn… but I definitely liked seeing him here, alongside the other couple of Phantom Zone Criminals. The last time we talked about this trio, it didn’t work out so well for them, did it? It was neat seeing them outside the context of them being killed-real-good. Though they are outrageously goofy.
The story here… while I liked it… I can’t help but feel as though I missed something. Superboy/Clark left after his folks forgot his Superboyness… because, why exactly? It’s not because he’s protecting them from people stuck in the Phantom Zone, because they tell him about that! I dunno… just seemed kinda slapdash. Then there’s the ending… suddenly it’s just a-okay to return home? Why? Weirder still, how does he explain that to his classmates, right? I’m willing to give it a pass just because it reminded me of that zany Silver-Age DC Comics nuttiness. I figure that’s probably the tone this series is going for. I’ve got plenty more from this run, and at first blush they do appear to be something straight out of the mid-sixties… and that’s not a bad thing.
If you’re down for a real strange tale from when Superman was a boy… you can do far worse than this not-too-far-from Crisis series.